New UGA Shade Trees Dedicated to Susy Dirr
Jul 29, 2010 by Brian Brodrick
Representatives from Select Trees and UGA stand with Michael Dirr (red hat, family friend Wendy Holland (dress), and Bonnie Dirr (pink shirt) in front of one of 210 new SustainablePlus shade trees donated to UGA and dedicated to the late Susy Dirr.
210 New Trees Planted on Campus will honor 1999 Alumnus, Watkinsville Native
ATHENS, Ga., July 28 – The late Susy Dirr was the daughter of one of America’s foremost tree experts, but she is remembered not for any shade she cast, but the sunshine she brought to others. Now, Dirr’s legacy will live on for generations at the campus of her beloved alma mater, the University of Georgia.
The Select SustainablePlus Tree Trust (SSTT) is dedicating the first of ten annual sustainable shade tree plantings – a total of 210 trees – at the University of Georgia to the memory of Miss Dirr, a 1999 UGA graduate and daughter of globally renowned horticulturalist and long-time Select Trees Group mentor Dr. Michael Dirr.
“If I could use one word to describe Susy, I would say sunshine,” said Becky Cicale, Lung Transplant Coordinator at the University of North Carolina’s Hospital. “Just being near her, you couldn’t help but be warm, happy and nurtured. Of all the people I have known in my life, she has truly touched me like no other.”
Suzanne Dirr, better known as “Susy,” passed on in 2008 after a lifelong battle with cystic fibrosis. Born in February 1977, Susy lived her life to the fullest each day despite her condition. Remembered for her intelligence, humor, and huge heart, Susy impacted those around her on a daily basis.
Cystic fibrosis is an inherited chronic disease with no known cure that affects the cells lining the lungs and digestive system. Despite her condition, she graduated as valedictorian from Oconee County High School and Summa Cum Laude from UGA.
She placed great emphasis on her education, as well as sharing her intelligence with others, and never let her disease overcome her. After moving to Chapel Hill, N.C. to await a lung transplant, Susy tutored student athletes – mostly football players – who went so far as to carry her up the steps in front of the classroom building when she could not make it on her own.
After two double-lung transplants, Susy lost her battle with cystic fibrosis in January 2008.
“Susy was the most courageous, funny, smart, loving person I have ever known,” added Cicale. “She fought a long battle with cystic fibrosis, but the disease did not define her, it only made her more determined to achieve her life’s goals. She endured not one, but two double lung transplants and would have endured three if given the chance, not for herself, but so that she could continue to help others.”
Susy, a patient of Cicale’s, became one of her dear friends throughout her stay at UNC. Susy worked alongside Cicale with the Sweet Melissa Fund, founded by Cicale, in memory of Melissa Alexander, a vibrant young woman who lost her battle with cystic fibrosis during her lung transplant surgery. Lung transplantation is a treatment option for patients with incurable end-stage lung disease, but it is also an expensive process. The Sweet Melissa Fund provides financial assistance to lung transplant recipients and their families.
Cicale said, “I remember most what a hard worker she was in every aspect of her life. She could accomplish absolutely anything she set her mind to, and she made it her life’s mission to help others. She taught me to never give up. My daughter was so inspired by her; she won an essay contest called “Be a Hero.” Susy was her hero. In fact, she was all of our heroes. She taught me to live, love, and laugh your heart out and appreciate the little things in life.”
“Susy had cystic fibrosis, but that is not who she was. Her two double-lung transplants tried to slow her down, but it seemed to give her strength to do more. She did not go down without a fight, but knew when it was time to go,” said Wendy Holland, a long-time friend.
Holland and Susy grew up together in Oconee County, attended UGA together, and maintained a very close friendship.
“I wish everyone had the chance to meet her at least once, because their lives too would have been changed for the better,” said Holland. “She was a friend to everyone she met, and I’m so glad that she was, and still is, such a gigantic part in my life. There was no self-pity with Susy. She was the greatest friend a person could have.”
Since announcing its donation last July, the Select SustainablePlus Tree Trust (SSTT) has provided 210 large (24-30 feet tall) sustainable shade trees to the University of Georgia’s campus. The mission of the tree trust is to create significant long-term positive impact in the urban environment with sustainable trees. SSTT donated the trees with the goal to help UGA impact the university campus with large scale, sustainable shade trees, and to provide areas all over campus, new and old, with improved shade and quality of life.
According to SSTT, “SustainablePlus” is defined by holding trees to a higher standard of long term value. Long-lived sustainable trees are the only part of infrastructure that appreciates. Buildings, roads, outdoor structures, and other parts of the landscape all depreciate over time while sustainable trees grow and thrive, adding to their value.
According to Select Trees Vice President Matt Nielson, “Select Trees would not exist in its current form without the incredible guidance of Dr. Michael Dirr and UGA. It is a pleasure to be able to give something back, and we hope that as people enjoy UGA’s trees, they will remember Susy’s inspirational life and amazing spirit.”
“Susy’s life can live on through the planting of long-lived shade trees. Trees are known to live such long lives and Susy wasn’t able to have that, but it is truly an extension of her life now that she is gone,” said friend Wendy Holland. “Each person that sees the trees will have to look towards the sky as they provide us shade and comfort, and maybe Susy will be looking down, doing the same.”
Select SustainablePlus Tree Trust (www.selectsustainabletreetrust.org) is the charitable arm of the Select Trees Group (STG), the leading grower of large sustainable shade trees in the southern United States. Select Trees Group has donated thousands of trees over the years and formalized these donations by creating the tree trust in 2007 in order to grow and better facilitate sizable donations of sustainable trees. The tree trust donates and discounts trees based on the project or organization’s need and potential for positive environmental and educational impact.